Careful with Flickering Lights

1Here is my servant, the one I uphold.
My chosen one, in whom I deeply delight.
I have put my spirit on him,
so he can bring justice to the nations.
2He will not cry out,
He will not raise his voice,
His voice is not heard in the street.
3He doesn’t break a crushed reed,
He doesn’t snuff the faltering candlelight.
He presents justice faithfully. — Isaiah 42:1-3

Over the last couple of days I’ve talked about being chosen for a mission, to spread God’s love everywhere. Then I talked about hanging around with Jesus no matter where he goes, and remembering that his path went through the cross and the grave.

Now let’s look at being God’s servant. There are debates amongst scholars as whether this applies to Israel, to a remnant of Israel, or to Jesus. I’m going to answer that question—yes! It does all that and more. It applies also to the body of Christ, his church, and to the way we deal with other people in the world.

We are God’s witnesses. In Isaiah 43:10 God says this to Israel. We will be witnesses to what God has done, whether that witness is good or bad. When we take the name “Christian” what we do reflects on Jesus Christ.

I recall listening to the testimony of a young man who was my student. As he told about the moment he came to know Jesus Christ and accept him as savior and Lord he choked up. He was speaking before his church that day, and he came to me afterward to apologize. He thought he shouldn’t get so emotional. I said to him, “Look where you were, where you were going, and consider where you’re going now. Don’t you think it’s OK to get emotional about a thing like that?”

And we do indeed get emotional. God’s Spirit comes upon us and we get excited. Then we wonder why the person down the pew doesn’t get it. We’re at work and we wonder why our coworkers don’t get it. We can’t imagine why the heathen in distant lands don’t get it as soon as someone tells them. Sometimes we get angry. How can they be so stupid? So stubborn? That’s when we get into the business of breaking reeds and snuffing out flickering lights.

Let me relate this to my own experience. I recall having someone come to me with a new thought out of the Bible, something they had just discovered. When I first graduated, I was very quick to tell them precisely what I thought of their thought! If it was not technically accurate, I would point it out in detail. I didn’t do this because I wanted to step on them. I was just “telling them the truth!” They should be thankful. But then I would notice a disappointment. The light would go out of somebody’s eyes as I put out the flickering light of something they’ve heard.

I’ve tried to learn to “speak the truth in love.” Sometimes it’s appropriate to tell another person they are wrong in an interpretation, if it’s done gently and with grace. But there are other times when I ought to leave any needed correction to the Holy Spirit and to further study. If I don’t put out the flickering light, they will go back to the Bible with that same excitement looking for more light, and they may find out for themselves what was wrong—or I may.

But whether I correct or don’t, I have to be careful with the flickering light. You may have other areas where you’re called to share. Remember that even the love of Jesus can be shared in a way that’s attractive, or in a way that drives people away.

Take care of crushed reeds and flickering candles!

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